Category Archives: Dog Diseases

Why is my dog scratching his face?

Chipper, my cocker spaniel, rubbed the left side of his face everywhere, on my legs, the kitchen cabinets, even on the asphalt driveway.  He would scratch at his face, but not to the point of damaging the skin, so I couldn’t tell exactly where he itched.

He drooled puddles of saliva while he sat patiently hoping for a tidbit while my husband and I ate dinner. I frequently grabbed paper towels to wipe a string of slime from his jowls.  Every morning I used a fine-toothed comb to remove most of the dried gook, which collected on his neck and the inside tip of his long droopy ear.  His white jaw and neck developed a brown stain. Chipper normally wasn’t such a drooly, itchy dog.

What was going on?  Could it be an infected tooth? Was it just the hot summer, causing him to pant more?  After a week or so, I took him to the vet.

“It’s a yeast infection,” my vet said.  “They can drive a dog crazy.  Notice this brown stain, its yeast growing near his lower lip, in a fold, next to his canine tooth.”

The vet told me to shave his chin as close as possible and to clean his face twice a day with ear cleaning solution, which has a cleaning and drying agent.  But after a week, it wasn’t going away, so I started doing some research.

What is Lip Fold Dermatitis?

It’s that time of year again, hot and humid. This summer in the Chicago area has been warmer than the last few. Warm, moist conditions create a great environment for bacteria and yeast to grow.

Dog with lip fold dermatitis

Chipper’s stained jowl.

It turns out we were lucky.  Many dogs with heavy jowls and lip folds develop infections that can smell very bad.  Lip fold dermatitis and lip fold pyoderma are sometimes used interchangeably, but as Pet Helpful explains pyoderma is an infection involving pus, while dermatitis is just inflammation.  Severe cases of pyoderma produce a strong odor, described in my favorite blog, Fidose of Reality (also about a cocker spaniel).

How to treat lip fold dermatitis

  • Keep the area as clean and dry as possible.
    • Shave the fur very short.
    • Brush your dog’s teeth at least once a day.
      • Excess food stuck in the lip fold allows bacteria and yeast to grow.
    • Wash your dog’s face several times a day with a washcloth and hand soap or other cleanser that is safe for your dog’s face. Wipe dry with a towel.
  • Mal-A-Ket wipes contain an antifungal and antibacterial agent. Use more often to get the dermatitis under control (once a day), then every few days once the infection is under control.
  • Wrinkle Balm has all natural ingredients and designed for dogs with skin folds on their face. Since Chipper doesn’t really have a skin fold, just his lip, I have not used this product much.  It may be more helpful for other breeds.
Dog with lip fold dermatitis

Chipper’s lip fold.

Cleaning Chipper’s mouth several times a day has reduced the drool and dried slobber on his fur although there’s still some staining.  I’m hoping cooler weather will set in soon with the approach of fall, and then he will pant less and I hope his drooling will decrease.

Does your dog have lip fold dermatitis?  What have you done to reduce it?

Bad Dog Breath – Why You Should Clean their Teeth

“Come Buddy,” I motioned my arm for my sister’s deaf twelve year-old cocker spaniel to approach me as I sat on the kitchen floor, toothbrush in hand.  He patiently sat in front of me while I inserted his new toothbrush into his mouth.  He had just moved in with me since my sister didn’t think he would survive the four-day drive to California where she was re-locating.

I turned my head away as he exhaled a rotten egg smell.  His yellow and black teeth suffered from years of neglect.  I only hoped I could reduce his bad breath by starting a daily brushing routine.  His foul breath prevented me from giving him many hugs and pets he needed at this time of transition so late in his life.

I had always brushed my own dog’s teeth, but only a few times a week.  Kaylee, my springer spaniel, was only two and her breath was fresh and her teeth white.  But I learned from Buddy the importance of dental hygiene.  Buddy wasn’t healthy enough to undergo anesthesia for a professional cleaning, so I did what I could.  Even with daily brushing, his breath remained foul.

I vowed never to let my dogs get bad breath in their old age again, so I maintained a daily brushing routine. 

That’s why I brush my dog’s teeth – to prevent bad breath, so I can enjoy their company well into their senior years.  And it has worked.  None of my dogs since Buddy has had bad breath. 

I brush their teeth daily, not at the best time, since it is part of their daily grooming before breakfast.  But this routine has worked for me for decades.  My cleaning is not sufficient to prevent tartar build up, but it helps a lot.

Chipper's clean teeth

Chipper’s clean teeth. 

Chipper's pulled teeth.

Chipper’s pulled teeth.

Chipper, the cocker I inherited from my mom, just got his teeth cleaned this week.  He’s now eleven and even after three years of brushing his teeth, they still looked bad, so the vet recommended professional cleaning.  He also needed to get a few bumps removed.  The difference was amazing-he no longer had black stains on his teeth.  The vet removed four small teeth and said he had moderate gingivitis and mild periodontal disease.  She stressed it was better to get his teeth cleaned now than to wait until there’s a problem.

So here’s my recommendation so you can enjoy your pet long into their senior years:

  • Brush their teeth daily with a dog toothpaste. Mine prefer poultry flavor (yuck).
  • Sometime between the ages of 7 and 10, get their teeth professionally cleaned. You may need to do this more than once in their lifetime.  Your dog needs to be healthy enough for the anesthesia and get a few troublesome lumps removed while you’re at it.
Chipper'sdental report

Chipper’s dental report

It’s good for their health.  Bad teeth can cause bacteria to spread to vital organs, causing serious health issues.

Watch this video on how to clean your dog’s teeth – it shows a springer, my favorite breed!

Wobbly Gait in Dogs – Is it Serious?

Cassie tripped as she walked on the driveway, caught herself and kept walking toward me.  How many times had this happened today?  At least ten, or was it closer to twenty?  I watched her walk, awkwardly curving to the left.  My vet thought she had arthritis in opposite legs, causing her to trip and walk abnormally.  A week later, she couldn’t walk and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  We had to put her down less than a week later as her condition deteriorated.

Ataxia or abnormal gait, takes many different forms, most of which are neurological, although there could be joint issues such as arthritis.  If your dog shows any of these symptoms, take her to the vet immediately ( )

Cassie being guided in her harness and sling when she couldn't balance.

Cassie being guided in her harness and sling when she couldn’t balance.

  • Misplacement of the paws,
  • Taking large and/or odd steps,
  • Progressive weakness in the legs,
  • Leaning to one side,
  • Body swaying,
  • Tipping, falling or rolling over,
  • Unusual eye movements,
  • Head and/or body tremors
  • Drowsiness or stupor

Possible illnesses that could cause these symptoms include:

  • Wobbler’s Syndrome (Cervical spondylomyelopathy (CSM)), which occurs mostly in giant breeds, but also in Basset Hounds. It is due to compression in the spinal column or the vestibulocochlear nerve that carries information from the inner ear to the brain.  It usually comes on slowly, but sometimes can happen suddenly
  • Vestibular disease is a disorder of the inner ear causing imbalance. My vet had thought Cassie might have this since her symptoms progressed so rapidly.  But motion sickness pills did not help, and her gait was quite different from in this video.
  • Coon Hound paralysis is a disease that Cassie developed when she was three years old. It is a temporary condition similar to Guillain Barré Syndrome in humans.  A wobbly gait was one of the first symptoms, then paralysis in her rear end, then her front.  Luckily, she was only ill for about a week.
  • Poisoning
  • Nervous system diseases or injuries

Your veterinarian should check out a sudden development of a wobbly gait, or even tripping, immediately.  Sometimes treatment within hours can prevent complications later.

Ear Infections – Yuk!

On a Sunday morning in early August, I sat on the kitchen floor with a brush, comb, toothbrush, poultry flavored toothpaste, eye drops, ear cleaner and cotton balls in a pile next to me, while I called Buffy to come to me; a typical grooming session for both cocker spaniels. Sundays and Wednesdays were ear-cleaning days, while tooth brushing, combing, and eye drops were included every morning. Chipper’s ears were normal, a little bit of brownish wax, but Buffy had one clean ear and one ear with thick brown gook on the cotton ball that I had rubbed inside her ear. Yuk – probably an ear infection.

Buffy's ear

Buffy’s ear

Buffy's ear gook.

Buffy’s ear gook.

So, I cleaned Buffy’s ‘bad’ ear every morning for a month, figuring cleaning it more often would help. It didn’t. Then I cleaned her ear twice a day, and the gook got thicker. Finally, after six or more weeks of trying to treat her ear infection myself, I took her to the vet. Chipper tagged along for his six-month checkup since my vet likes to check older dogs twice a year.

The technician asked me when the infection started, and I remembered the time I took both dogs to a Lake Michigan beach on a hot day in early August. Neither of them wanted to swim, but I wanted to cool them off, so I convinced them to go in. Buffy only waded, chasing the ball up to chest deep water, until I pushed her in a little further to get her whole body wet. Chipper reluctantly swam after me when I called him. I didn’t give them a bath afterwards, or clean their ears – that was the problem.

The vet gave me new ear cleaner (I never thought about the expiration date – which was from 2012), and Tresaderm (a broad-spectrum antibiotic) for both dogs. It turned out Chipper also had an ear infection, although his ears didn’t produce as much gook as Buffy’s.

A week later, Buffy’s ear is still infected but Chipper’s looks better. The vet gave me a refill of Tresaderm and this time I noticed it said in large letters KEEP REFRIGERATED. Oops. Somehow, I hadn’t noticed that before. Also the link below mentions to allow the ear to dry at least ten minutes after using the ear cleaner—another oops! I had put the Tresaderm in right after cleaning. Maybe that’s why Buffy’s ear hasn’t healed. So read the directions thoroughly!